Tag Archives: 2009

AG Pick: Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

The Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is everything you look for in a Napa Cabernet. Its intense dark fruit aromas draw you in. The palate is lush and layered, with rich blue and black fruit flavors that are enhanced by the finesse of a skilled wine maker. The velvety texture coats your mouth and the finish goes on and on so you can’t help but linger over every sip.

2009 Mt. BraveThis wine is a true tribute to place, starting with the name. It honors the Wappo Indians, known as “The Brave Ones,” who settled on Mt. Veeder in the 1800s.

The grapes for the Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon are grown on Mt. Veeder’s rugged terrain, at elevations ranging from 1,400 to 1,800 feet. The unique growing conditions result in small berries with concentrated flavors, and produce a wine that is expressive of the mountain and the soil.

Winemaker Chris Carpenter (well-known to Napa wine aficionados for Cardinale and Lokoya wines) adds the finishing touch. His knowledge of the terrain and passion for winemaking are evident in each bottle.

From your first sniff of fragrant ripe black cherry and blueberry, you know that this will be a delicious wine. The berry notes expand on the palate, and are layered with dark chocolate, tobacco, violet, a hint of vanilla and gentle wet shale minerality. Chewy tannins add to the luscious mouthfeel, and the finish is long and satisfying.

If serving the wine at your holiday gathering this year, the AG recommends decanting it for fuller enjoyment.

For more information on the wines of Mt. Brave visit www.mtbravewines.com. The wines may be purchased on the website.

$75, 14.5% alcohol by volume

photo credit: Mt. Brave

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Helfrich: White Wines from Alsace

Elegance is the word that comes to mind when sipping the wines of Helfrich. A limited selection of white wines from the family-owned winery in Alsace, France are now available in the United States.

Helfrich winesThe Helfrich Cremant d’Alsace Brut demonstrates that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a high quality French sparkling wine. Made entirely from Pinot Blanc, it has notes of fresh lemon, white grapefruit, white flowers and toast. Click here to see a full article on the Helfrich Cremant d’Alsace.
$20, 12.1% abv

The grapes for the 2012 Helfrich Pinot Blanc come from the Couronne d’Or (Golden Crown), an association of vineyards and winemakers in the middle of Alsace. Tart citrus aromas introduce flavors of lemon custard, white grapefruit and subtle orange blossom, with notes of white flowers that expand as the wine warms in the glass. Pair the Helfrich Pinot Blanc with salads, shellfish, white fish and Asian dishes.
$15, 12.96% abv

The grapes for the Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru and Gewurztraminer Grand Cru come from the Steinklotz vineyard, one of only 51 vineyards in Alsace that has the Grand Cru designation. It is located at the northern end of the Alsatian wine trail and is one of the oldest vineyards recorded in Alsace.

Helfrich Grand CruThe 2011 Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru offers a great balance of sweetness and acidity. The nose and palate are dominated by stone fruit – apricot, white peach and lychee are layered with gardenia, orange blossom honey and a subtle hint of smoke. It is a touch less sweet than the Gewurztraminer. Pair the 2011 Helfrich Pinot Gris Grand Cru with baked ham, roasted chicken and seafood dishes.
$20, 12.5% abv

Ripe fruit and delicate floral notes make the 2009 Helfrich Gewurztraminer Grand Cru a real treat. The nose is wonderfully fragrant with honeysuckle, gardenia and apricot aromas. Lush flavors of orange blossom, tangerine, wildflower honey and gentle minerality culminate in a finish with lingering candied orange and ginger. The Helfrich Gewurztraminer is excellent as a dessert wine, or can be paired with lobster, scallops, spicy Asian dishes and soft and aged cheese.
$20, 12.61% alcohol

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Chimney Rock: Showcasing Stags Leap

Driving along the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District, you can’t miss Chimney Rock’s bright white Cape Dutch-style estate. Though the building was influenced by architecture in South Africa (where the original owner worked as an executive at Pepsi Cola), the wine has always been true to place.

Chimney Rock“Our wine should paint a picture of the appellation,” said Elizabeth Vianna, Chimney Rock’s winemaker. Elizabeth visited Atlanta in June and shared the winery’s history and a taste of their current releases.

Hack and Stella Wilson purchased what was then the Chimney Rock golf course in 1980. They dug up the first nine holes with the ideal of making small production, high quality estate-grown wine. Today Chimney Rock is owned by the Terlato family who, in partnership with the Wilsons in 2001, dug up the second nine holes to plant more vines. Elizabeth joined as winemaker in 2002.

Chimney Rock’s focus is on red wine, Bordeaux varieties in particular. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and a small amount of Malbec are grown on their Stags Leap District estate. Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris are grown just north in Rutherford. The goal is to grow the best fruit possible. To achieve this Elizabeth is very active in the vineyards, pruning vines and monitoring the grapes’ growth.

Elizabeth’s passion for wine and winemaking is clear when she speaks about Chimney Rock. “I think about this as abstract art,” she said, “because it’s about shape, about texture.”

Chimney Rock winesThe artistry comes in once the grapes have been harvested – blending the grapes, stirring the lees and determining the use of oak – to produce high quality wines that capture the essence of the Stags Leap District.

“I think there’s an honesty to our wines. We want to be truthful to the vintage and place.”

With the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Elizabeth aimed to showcase the purity of the fruit. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, and did not spend time in oak or undergo malolactic fermentation. There was some stirring of the lees to give the wine a more creamy mouthfeel.

You won’t find grassy notes in this wine. The 2012 Chimney Rock Sauvignon Blanc is fresh and lively, with crisp flavors of stone fruit, white peach and golden pear.

Elevage BlancRich, lush and layered are the adjectives that come to mind when describing the 2010 Elevage Blanc. The Bordeaux-style white wine is a blend of 88% Sauvignon Blanc and 12% Sauvignon Gris. New and used French oak as well as lees stirring were used to enhance the flavors and texture.

The Elevage Blanc is wonderfully aromatic and velvety smooth. Mouth-filling flavors of white apricot, nectarine and lemon meringue are layered with white flowers, chamomile and a hint of vanilla. This is a wine that can age for an additional five to fifteen years.

Elizabeth’s objective with the 2009 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon was to show off Stags Leap District fruit. The wine spent 18 to 20 months in French oak barrels, and has a small percentage of Merlot.

The 2009 Chimney Rock Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon is intense yet refined. Aromas of black cherry introduce a palate of ripe dark fruit. Blackberry, cassis and plum mix with sweet cedar and vanilla. It’s smooth and supple in the mouth, and culminates in a satisfying finish with lingering berry notes.

ElevageWhile the Stags Leap District Cabernet is all about the fruit of the AVA, the 2010 Elevage is all about the texture, according to Elizabeth. The proprietary red is a blend of 56% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot (the percentages of grapes vary each year in both the Elevage and Elevage Blanc). The wine was aged in 100% new oak barrels from Burgundy, selected because they impart more elegance to the wine.

The 2010 Elevage is a wine to plan your meal around. Soft, velvety smooth and sophisticated, it’s the most feminine of Chimney Rock’s red wines. The Elevage has delicate flavors of cassis, blackberry and boysenberry, woven together with layers of black pepper, black tea and vanilla. Big tannins are balanced by the wine’s acidity. Ending with a long finish, the Elevage is a pleasure to sip. This wine can age for an additional 8 to 10 years.

For more information on Chimney Rock visit www.chimneyrock.com.

Bottle shots of Elevage and Elevage Blanc from Chimney Rock’s website

AG Pick: Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal

And now for something sweet: the Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal 2009, a fortified wine from Portugal. Aromatic and rich with citrus and nutty flavors, it is a decadent post-dinner drink.

Bacalhoa Moscatel de SetubalAs indicated by its name, the wine was made entirely from the Moscatel de Setúbal grape. Fermentation was stopped early by the addition of aguardente (a neutral spirit made from grapes, similar to brandy), which preserved the sugar while raising the alcohol content. The wine spent time aging in small used oak casks.

Golden amber in color, the Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal has aromas of orange blossom, dried fruits and toasted almond. The taste is sweet without being cloying, with flavors of dried apricot, fig and plum layered with toffee, hazelnut, caramel and black tea. The texture is silky smooth, with good acidity keeping each sip fresh and bright. The finish is long and lingering, with warm notes of lemon and candied orange peel.

The Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal should be served slightly chilled (50 to 55 °F or 10 to 12 °C), making it perfect for the warmer summer months. And with a price tag of less than $20 a bottle, you won’t feel guilty indulging in a glass on a weeknight.

Enjoy the Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal with crème caramel, dark chocolate or ripe strawberries, or on its own as a digestif. Add a lemon peel and it’s a delicious apéritif.

$15, 17.5% alcohol by volume

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AG Pick: Clos LaChance Wines

Big in flavor but not in price, Clos LaChance wines are easy to drink and can be enjoyed at a variety of occasions.

Clos LaChance winesLocated in San Martin, in the northern part of California’s Central Coast, Clos LaChance is family owned and operated. Bill and Brenda Murphy focus on creating wines of distinction using sustainable winegrowing practices and a mix of modern winemaking technology and old world philosophy.

The grapes come from 150 acres of estate vineyards in San Martin and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Clos LaChance Sauv BlancThe 2011 Estate Sauvignon Blanc is 87% Sauvignon Blanc and 13% Semillon. Fresh and floral, this white wine has flavors of lemon, lime, white grapefruit and white peach, with a hint of sweet honeysuckle and subtle grassy undertones. Gentle acidity gives the wine a pleasing mouthfeel, and the finish is clean and refreshing. Enjoy the Clos LaChance Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif or with salads, white fish, shrimp or spicy dishes. ($11, 13.9% alcohol by volume)

Clos LaChance ZinThe 2010 Estate Zinfandel includes 11% Petit Sirah. The wine was aged for 14 months in 20% new American oak barrels.

Ripe berries dominate on the nose and palate. Flavors of blackberry, cherry and boysenberry are complemented by a touch of white pepper and thyme, with lingering spice on the smooth finish. Pair the Clos LaChance Zinfandel with grilled meats, barbecue or pizza. ($15, 15% alcohol by volume)

Clos LaChance CabernetThe 2009 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon includes 12% Malbec and 2% Merlot. The wine spent 16 months in 30% new French oak barrels and 5% new American oak barrels.

Bright and fruit-forward, this wine has flavors of black plum, blackberry, cherry and raspberry. Layers of cedar and tobacco add depth. Well-integrated tannins give the wine a velvety mouthfeel, and the finish is soft with a lingering hint of vanilla. Pair the Clos LaChance Cabernet Sauvignon with beef, lamb, hamburgers or grilled or roasted red meats. ($15, 13.8% alcohol by volume)

For more information on Clos LaChance visit www.clos.com.

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AG Pick: Hagafen Cellars “Prix” Riesling

Whether you’re looking for a white wine to bring to a Passover Seder or want a Riesling that’s perfect for the start of spring, you’ll enjoy the 2009 Hagafen Cellars “Prix” Reserve Riesling.

It’s not just the Amateur Gastronomer that’s a fan. Editor-in-chief Robin Austin was one of the judges in the American Fine Wine Competition who awarded the Napa Valley Riesling “Best of Show White” after blind tasting hundreds of wines.

Hagafen CellarsHagafen Prix Riesling was founded in 1979 and means “the vine” in Hebrew. Today owners Irit and Ernie Weir produce a variety of white, red and sparkling wines.

The “Prix” Reserve Riesling is fresh and aromatic, with citrus, honey and white flowers on the nose. The taste is sweet yet delicate, with flavors of apricot, Meyer lemon and orange blossom, plus a hint of wildflower honey that lingers on the satisfying finish.

The fact that the Hagafen Cellars “Prix” Reserve Riesling is certified Kosher should be considered a bonus, not something to dissuade those who don’t keep Kosher from trying a bottle. None of the judges in the American Fine Wine Competition would have guessed this Riesling was a Kosher wine; the superior taste was what made it stand out.

$36, 11.8% alcohol by volume

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AG Pick: Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay

The finesse of Italian tradition and the high quality of Napa Valley come together in the elegant Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay.

The name is a combination of Antinori and California, the former being one of the most well-known wine families and companies in Italy. The Antinori family has a history of winemaking that dates back 26 generations and more than 600 years.

The California estate of the Antinori family is located in the Atlas Peak District in the Napa Valley, an area of hilly terrain and rocky soils. The grapes used for the 2009 Chardonnay were grown at an average elevation of 1420 feet, on vines that were between 9 and 21 years old.

Following the harvest that spanned three weeks in September, fermentation took place in 30% new French oak barrels. The wine spent an additional six months aging on the lees in the barrels, during which time malolactic fermentation helped to soften the acidity. Each barrel was then tasted, with only the best chosen for the final wine.

The care that went into making this wine is evident when you take a sip. Refined and well balanced, the oak enhances the fresh fruit flavors of the Chardonnay grapes.

Tree fruit and citrus aromas introduce flavors of pear, apple, sweet starfruit and white peach, with a hint of lemongrass. Layers of creamy vanilla and hazelnut add depth. The finish is long and rich.

Pair the Antica 2009 Chardonnay with chicken, white fleshed fish, salmon, fruits de mer or pasta dishes with a cream or olive oil-based sauce. Or try the Burrata d’Estate or Pasta al Telephono recipes provided by Antica below.

A bottle of the Antica Napa Valley 2009 Estate Chardonnay costs $35.

alcohol 14.2% by volume

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Burrata d’Estate

Creamy Burrata, Nectarines & Tender Summer Greens
serves 10

5 – 6 oz tender greens, cleaned and spun dry
2 – 3 nectarines, sliced in 1⁄4 inch moon shapes
10 oz Burrata—divided into 1 ounce portions
Antica olive oil
salt and pepper
8 tbsp vinaigrette (recipe below)
5 tbsp chopped salted Marcona almonds or roasted almonds

pinch of salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Champagne vinaigrette
5 – 6 tbsp Antica olive oil

To make this simple vinaigrette place salt into a bowl large enough that you can use a whisk. Add lemon juice to the salt and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. This vinaigrette should be slightly acidic so that it complements the nectarines and the Burrata. Adjust salt for balance.

Salad Assembly:
1.  In a medium bowl, place greens and then slowly add the vinaigrette according to your personal taste. Toss gently and then add the nectarine slices. Salt and pepper to taste.
2.  Place salad in individual serving bowls. Add approximately one ounce of Burrata to the salad. Optional: place the fresh cheese to the side so that it is not lost in the salad. Drizzle the Burrata with Antica olive oil and a pinch of salt.
3.  Sprinkle with chopped almonds and serve.

Pasta al Telefono

Serves 4 as main, 8 as a first course

1⁄2 cup olive oil, more to finish the dish
1 clove garlic
4 basil leaves, more for garnish
28 oz can of whole tomatoes
8 oz very small mozzarella balls
1/8 cup kosher salt
penne pasta
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Put very large pot of water on to boil.
2.  While the water boils, place olive oil, whole garlic cloves and bay leaves in a pan large enough to hold the pasta once it is cooked. Heat oil to allow the garlic and basil leaves flavors to marry. The olive should not overheat, and the fire should be kept low.
3.  Strain the tomatoes from the can, saving some of the sauce in case it is needed. Cut the tomatoes with a using a knife and fork or two knives. (This motion is similar to cutting up food for a child) The pieces should be very small.
4.  Add the tomatoes to the oil mixture that has been heated. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, adding more olive oil to keep a sauce consistency. Remove the basil and garlic.
5.  When pasta water boils, add salt and the pasta. Stir immediately so that the pasta does not stick to each other. The water should be salty. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, reducing the cooking time by 2 minutes.
6.  Taste the pasta midway to ensure there is enough salt.
7.  Add the mozzarella to the tomato sauce when the pasta is being drained, so that it starts to melt.
8.  Add cooked pasta to the tomato sauce to finish cooking for the remaining two minutes. Stir like crazy, taste for salt and pepper, and serve warm. Garnish with more olive oil and a sprig of basil. The cheese should be stringy, just like a telephone cord.